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Student proficiency and academic growth increase

Immediate Release
September 5, 2018
Contact:  Todd Hagans
Chief Communications Officer
Office: (704) 866-6118
Cell: (704) 718-0279

Gaston sees increase in student proficiency and academic growth
Elementary schools experience highest academic gains; graduation rate is 85.6 percent

Gastonia, N.C. – More schools in Gaston County are meeting or exceeding academic growth expectations on the state testing and accountability program, according to information released today by the North Carolina State Board of Education.  Overall student proficiency for Gaston County increased slightly for the 2017-2018 academic year while the graduation rate for the Class of 2018 dipped to 85.6 percent after a record-high rate in 2017.

▪ Overall Student Proficiency
The district’s overall student proficiency rate increased slightly when compared to the previous year.  For the 2017-2018 school year, 56.0 percent of students scored a Level III, IV, or V on the state tests.  Students who achieve a Level III, IV, or V score are performing at or above grade level expectations. 

Gaston sees increase in student proficiency and academic growth The student proficiency rate for the 2016-2017 school year was 55.0.  Since the state implemented new testing standards in 2013-2014, Gaston’s proficiency rate has gone up almost six points, increasing from 50.2 to 56.0.

Collectively, the most significant gains in student proficiency occurred at the elementary school level with 18 schools seeing an increase when compared to last year.  Three elementary schools achieved double-digit gains:  Pleasant Ridge +13.0, Catawba Heights +10.9, and Carr +10.7.  Other elementary schools with significant gains include Hawks Nest +9.7, W.B. Beam Intermediate +6.8, Chapel Grove +6.5, and North Belmont +6.3.

At the middle school level, York Chester (+10.0) and Southwest (+5.1) had the most significant gains in overall student proficiency.  Ashbrook (+4.7) and South Point (+4.6) had the highest gains in student proficiency among the high schools.

Students in grades 3-8 take end-of-grade tests in reading and math, and fifth and eighth graders also take an end-of-grade science test.  High school students take end-of-course tests in Math I, Biology, and English II.  The district had its most significant subject area improvements in eighth grade math (+7.0) and fifth grade math (+4.7).

▪ Academic Growth
For the 2017-2018 school year, Gaston County had 87.8 percent of its schools (43 of 49) to meet or exceed academic growth expectations.  The previous year, 41 of 49 schools met or exceeded growth expectations.  Academic growth indicates whether students achieve a year’s worth of academic progress for a year’s worth of instruction.  Growth is reported in one of three ways:  Exceeded Growth, Met Growth, or Did Not Meet Growth.

▪ School Performance Grades
The state uses the testing and accountability data to determine the School Performance Grades, which were assigned for the first time in 2014.  A school’s performance letter grade is determined using a formula based only on two factors:  student achievement (80 percent) and student academic growth (20 percent).  For the 2017-2018 school year, Gaston County had two schools to earn an A grade, 13 schools to earn a B grade, and 28 schools to earn a C grade. 

The School Performance Grade should not be interpreted as a comprehensive evaluation that determines the quality of a school.  It is intended to make it easier for the public to understand how a school is performing.  However, only select criteria are used to determine the grade.  Factors such as school size, diverse student population, socioeconomics, teacher experience, student learning obstacles, special programs, and parental and community involvement have an effect on a school’s performance, but are not considered in the grade.

▪ Graduation Rate
After experiencing a record-high graduation rate of 88.3 percent in 2017, the graduation rate for the Class of 2018 dipped to 85.6 percent.  Despite the decrease, six high schools – Ashbrook, Cherryville, Stuart W. Cramer, Forestview, Gaston Early College, and Highland – achieved a graduation rate that exceeds 90 percent. 

Called the four-year cohort graduation rate, it reflects the percentage of students who entered the ninth grade in 2014-2015 and graduated four years later in June 2018.  When the state first calculated the four-year cohort graduation rate in 2005-2006, Gaston County’s rate was a mere 68.1 percent.

This year, the state changed how it calculates the graduation rate, which resulted in lower rates for schools.  Previously, the rate was based primarily on the initial number of ninth grade students who created the cohort.  Students who enrolled in a school, but were not part of the school’s initial cohort, were included in the calculation only if they were on schedule to graduate in four years.  Now, all students, regardless of circumstances, are included in a school’s cohort.

It is important to note that the four-year graduation rate is not the same as the dropout rate, which indicates the number of students who drop out of high school in a given year.

Some students need an extra year of high school to complete graduation requirements.  The district’s five-year cohort graduation rate is 89.3 percent, which is a bit higher than last year’s five-year rate of 89.2.  The five-year cohort graduation rate reflects the number of students who entered the ninth grade in 2013-2014 and graduated by June 2018.

“We are encouraged to have some gains in overall academic achievement, and we congratulate the schools that saw improvements in student proficiency and academic growth,” stated Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker.  “Obviously, we want more substantial increases in student achievement, and we want to see the district’s overall graduation rate exceed 90 percent – ideally, we want a 100 percent graduation rate.  I am confident that our schools will work diligently to build on their successes from last year and achieve at an even higher rate this year.” 

Booker added, “The testing and accountability data will be used to determine our strengths and areas for improvement, and we will work with our schools to ensure that students continue to grow, achieve, and thrive.  Our administrators, teachers, student support personnel, and many others are committed to doing all that we can to help students excel in the classroom and provide them with a school environment that is safe, nurturing, and conducive for quality teaching and learning.”

Below are highlights from the 2017-2018 state test results:

+ Under the state testing and accountability program, students in grades 3-8 are tested in reading and math.  Fifth and eighth grade students also are tested in science.  High school students take state tests in three subject areas:  Math I, Biology, and English II.

+ Overall student proficiency on the state end-of-grade and end-of-course tests increased to 56.0 percent.  When the state implemented new testing standards in 2013-2014, the district’s proficiency rate was 50.2 percent.  Proficiency is determined by the number of students scoring a Level III, IV, or V (performing at or above grade level) on the state tests.

+ This year (2017-2018), Gaston County Schools had 23 schools to exceed academic growth expectations.  In 2016-2017, 22 schools exceeded growth.  In 2015-2016, 20 schools exceeded growth, and 18 schools exceeded growth in 2014-2015.

+ Among the elementary schools (grades 3-5), Hawks Nest, Belmont Central, W.A. Bess, New Hope, Pinewood, Carr, Catawba Heights, Robinson, and Cherryville had the highest proficiency rates.

+ The elementary schools with the most significant increases in proficiency compared to last year were Pleasant Ridge (+13.0), Catawba Heights (+10.9), Carr (+10.7), and Hawks Nest (+9.7).

+ Cramerton, Belmont, Gaston County Virtual Academy, and Holbrook had the highest proficiency for middle schools (grades 6-8).  York Chester (+10.0) and Southwest (+5.1) had the most significant increases among middle schools.

+ Highland School of Technology and Gaston Early College had the highest proficiency among the high schools (grades 9-12).  Highland with 99.8 percent and Gaston Early College with 97.9 percent are among the top scores in the state for student proficiency.

+ The high schools with the most significant increases in proficiency were Ashbrook (+4.7) and South Point (+4.6).

+ Gaston Early College and Highland received an A school performance grade.  The district has 13 schools that received a B grade:  Ashbrook, Belmont Central, Belmont Middle, W.A. Bess, Carr, Cherryville High, Stuart W. Cramer, Cramerton, Forestview, Hawks Nest, New Hope, Page Primary, and South Point. 

The test scores released today are preliminary results.  The results will be verified by the state and official results will be a part of the district and school report cards, which will be issued this fall.

Click here for charts with information about academic growth, student proficiency, graduation rate, and School Performance Grades.